Notes on a Letter from Thomas Tingey to the Secretary of the Navy
Extract of a letter from Capt. Tingey, on board the Ganges at St. Thomas. 27th Jany. 1799:
I understood from Capt. Smith and the other two captain’s who were on board the Hannibal [a British ship of war]1 at the time, that an almost total stagnation to the French privateering had taken place in consequence of so heavy a penalty for their behavior having been decreed, that very few were able or willing to comply with, and that not more than one in twenty of the prizes they took were French vessels. from this I could not but presage little business from2 the Ganges.’
The war party have always insisted that the late arret by which the French government pretended to regulate & restrain their privateers was nugatory, & meant to delude, because they were still to conduct themselves by the laws of the republic, the very laws under which we have suffered so much. this authentic information shews it has been so effectual as to put down nearly the whole […].—they pretend too that this disappearance of French cruisers is solely the effect of our arming. this information shews the chief cause of their disappearance is very different.
PrC (MHi); entirely in TJ’s hand, including one set of brackets identified in note 1 below; faint.
The extract is from a letter Thomas Tingey wrote as a report to Benjamin Stoddert. The Philadelphia Gazette printed the letter in full on 16 Feb. 1799. As a young man Tingey, English-born, had served in the British naval service. He had experience as a merchant captain in the West Indies trade and was living in New Jersey in September 1798 when, during the congressional recess, John Adams named him a captain in the U.S. Navy. The Ganges under Tingey’s command cruised the Windward Passage during the winter of 1798–99 with particular orders “to capture or destroy the Armed Vessels fitted out under the Authority of France.” Early in January 1799 he spoke to the commanders of three British warships off the coast of Saint-Domingue (NDQW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the Quasi War between the United States and France, Washington, 1935–38, 7 vols. description ends , Nov. 1798–Mch. 1799, 84–5, 283–7; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828 description ends , 1:308).
1. TJ’s brackets.